Funding may turn passion into job

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Josiah Hunt works from the co-working office space Petridish, in Dunedin, on Monday after applying for part of Dunedin's Centre of Digital Excellence's $700,000 funding for the city's game development community. PHOTO: MOLLY HOUSEMAN

A new funding programme is giving a Dunedin game developer the opportunity to make a passion project his job.

Dunedin’s Centre of Digital Excellence (Code) announced it would inject $700,000 into Dunedin’s game development community.

It was funding which Josiah Hunt, who studied computer science at the University of Otago, hoped would make his dream a reality.

His love of storytelling started at a young age.

“Games were always a huge part of my life .. I even made a game when I was a kid called Cats and Bombs with help from my Dad.”

After university, he began developing mobile games while working for Runaway, but after about a year he decided to go it alone.

“I wanted to make something that I was passionate about.”

Mr Hunt began doing contract web development, but his passion was in his side hobby an action adventure computer game with the working title Black Heart

Its storyline was about self-responsibility, with themes of sacrifice and friendship, he said.

It would also be based in a fantasy universe he created while writing his two self-published books during school and university.

The funding, if Mr Hunt’s application was successful, could launch a dream career.

“The goal would be that if I can get it, I could make working on my game my job, which is the dream.”

It would also enable him to bring a paid artist on board, he said.

“How it looks is really important, it is critical. You can have the coolest idea in the world but if you cannot communicate that visually to people then it is not going to do well.”

Dunedin City mayor Aaron Hawkins said he was “delighted” with the scope and timing of the funding programme.

Dunedin at a time when we are experiencing, like the rest of the country, some very real economic pain and challenges.”

Code Working Group and New Zealand Game Developers Association board member Tim Ponting said the economic conditions brought the launch of the funding programme forward.

It would provide an “excellent” opportunity to grow existing studios, develop new ones and provide employment to people from a broad range of backgrounds, he said.

Further funding programmes would also be available in subsequent years, Mr Ponting said.

The Code funding will be drawn from the Government’s $10 million Provincial Growth Fund, following Dunedin being confirmed as New Zealand’s new Centre of Digital Excellence, in October last year.

Dunedin would act as the national hub to support the development of a $1 billion video game industry over the next ten years.